Sunday, February 28, 2021

Darby Asked about Transmission Congestion and More

On Day 2 of House Energy Committee hearings Rep. Drew Darby continued his focus on keeping power to critical infrastructure, like natural gas line compressors, during a power crisis.  He added a concern about transmission lines, i.e. having the ability to move power from one part of the state to another.  

Darby suggested the PUC pursue another economic model.  A High Plains cooperative has a $400 million bill from the event.  Darby expressed concern how the money will wash through the system and how many companies will not be able to meet their obligations?  Will they expect the Texas legislature to bail them out?

Darby read from an invoice that showed $14.5 billion in short interest from the three day period.  He coached other committee members that the numbers will come in from their communities and things could be very expensive for some.

Rep. Darby asked the ATT representative about use of the Emergency Alert System to communicate with Texans during a crisis, weather or otherwise.

It can happen again, until legislators take action to prevent it.

Update 3-1-21:  Reuters reported:

Texas’s largest and oldest electric power cooperative on Monday filed for bankruptcy protection in federal court in Houston, citing a disputed $1.8 billion bill from the state’s grid operator.  

Brazos Electric Power Cooperative Inc, which supplies electricity to more than 660,000 consumers across the state, is one of dozens of providers facing enormous charges stemming from a severe cold snap last month. The fallout threatens utilities and power marketers, which collectively face billions of dollars in blackout-related charges, executives said.

An ERCOT spokeswoman did not have an immediate comment. The Public Utility Commission, the state’s regulator that oversees ERCOT, was unavailable for comment.

What will the Texas legislature do with a market implosion laid atop an actual disaster?  It is of their making.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Darby Suggested PUC Meet Frequently, Nothing for ERCOT CEO

Rep. Drew Darby questioned power transmission line operators during the marathon Texas House hearing on the five day power outage we experienced from Sunday, Feb. 14 to Thursday Feb. 18, 2021.

Darby continued his empathy for line operators in that they are prohibited by the Texas legislature from knowing their customers.  Line operators. like the power generators, indicated they both know their customers and have many ways of communicating with them, text, website, phone app, and call center.  One firm has a power alert service that informs customers that there power is out.

I called AEP several times and at no time did the person at the other end of the line inform me of what was going on.  I called our local sheriff and asked if AEP kept them in the loop.  They said no and to check the AEP website for outage information.  I did that multiple times over the five day period and our outage never changed from "under assessment", even after the power came back on for good.

ERCOT has a gas-electric working group that failed to ensure natural gas moved from well head to power plants during a crisis.  Darby proposed a new coordinating group to take up this function. 

Rep. Darby had one statement for Chair of the Public Utility Commission DeAnn Walker.  He said the PUC has the power to meet with one hour's notice and said the PUC should have done this frequently during the emergency.

Darby asked nothing of ERCOT's CEO Bill Magness.  I still don't know why AEP couldn't rotate power during the crisis and why we took the brunt for the power failure.  Maybe the next hearing will provide an answer.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Darby Cites Legislature as Critical to Massive Power Outages


In the middle of the winter storm Rep. Drew Darby said:

A failure of this magnitude cannot happen again, State Rep. Drew Darby said. 
“As a member of Energy Resources, I intend to ensure that your voice is represented at this hearing and we get to the bottom of what forced millions of Texans to be without power in sub-freezing temperatures,” Darby said.

Darby opened his questioning at the House Energy Committee hearing with:

"Thank you Mr. Chairman.  With all due respect to the process there is a lot of blame but I''m not going to point any.  If we want to look for blame we can look at this building and the folks that occupy these seats, both now and the years predecessors to us.  So my question is going to relate to how to fix it."

Darby went on to identify two sticking points, the 20% limit on electrical generation capacity and his belief that transmission line carriers could not communicate with customers because they don't know who they are.  Vistra Energy CEO Curt Morgan said the second constraint is not true, stating line carriers know the customers they serve, the people at the end of the meter.  I can attest to that having called AEP numerous times during the winter storm to report power outages.

Rep. Darby asked the wind generation representative about the actual wind shortfall during the long outage and about the relationship between wind and natural gas, seen by the wind industry as complimentary and not competitive.   I have more video to review from yesterday's House committee testimony.

Rep. Darby did speak to the national media and told the press:

“In a lot of respects, we’re victims of our own attempt to let free market forces work,” said Republican state Rep. Drew Darby, who sits on the House Energy Resources Committee that is digging into the outages.

“Typically, you know, the Texas Legislature pushes back on overregulation," Darby said. “However, my view on something as basic to human survival and need is we need to have reliable power and water."

The victims were the millions of Texans left without power for days.  

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Rep. Darby to Fix Mess He Helped Create

Our power went out for four hours on Valentine's Day, Sunday February 14th.  It went out again at 1:30 am Monday, February 15th and did not return for good until Thursday, February 18th.  In the middle of our frozen blackout Representative Drew Darby told San Angelo Live.

A failure of this magnitude cannot happen again, State Rep. Drew Darby said. 

“As a member of Energy Resources, I intend to ensure that your voice is represented at this hearing and we get to the bottom of what forced millions of Texans to be without power in sub-freezing temperatures,” Darby said.

We did not experience a rotating blackout as promised by ERCOT.:

Rolling outages were supposed to last about 10 to 45 minutes each. But by Tuesday afternoon, millions were still without power in heat in Texas with no end in sight to the blackouts.

Rep. Darby's Energy Committee is responsible for:

  • electric utility regulation as it relates to energy production and consumption;
  • identifying, developing, and using alternative energy sources;
  • increasing energy efficiency throughout the state; 

An ERCOT video states it and the Public Utility Commission operate under "the guidance of the Texas Legislature."

Representative Darby began serving in the Texas House of Representatives in January 2007.  He served as Chair of the Energy Committee from 2015-2018.  

Representative Darby played a key role in electrical utility regulation in the decade since the 2011 grid failure that produced recommendations for change.  That grid failure lasted roughly 36 hours and impacted 3.2 million people.  Those recommendations went unheeded.

Our prolonged arctic event saw the number without power grow from 2 million to 3 million to nearly 4.5 million.   

"10 years ago, the PUC identified the incapacity to deal with extreme shifts in the weather and did nothing," state Rep. Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio, wrote Wednesday on Twitter.

As the PUC operates under the guidance of the Texas Legislature citizens know who to hold accountable.   

"Once the grid is back to being fully operational again, we must address why, after ten years have passed, are we in a worse position today than in 2011."

It's because our leaders enabled the abandonment of millions of their constituents, now livid 

“This was poorly managed,” she said. “It was clarifying, to be honest with you, because now we know when things hit the fan, we're in it alone.”

Here's my feedback for AEP, ERCOT, the PUC and the Texas Legislature:

The PUC jumped into action that Monday evening of the crisis and raised wholesale electricity rates and made them retroactive.

The Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas has directed the state's main grid operators to raise energy prices, as millions of people are enduring below-freezing weather without power in their homes.

The PUC met in an emergency open meeting on Monday evening to address concerns that "certain pricing mechanisms were not generating an optimal response" to the electricity crisis sparked by the extreme winter weather in the state, according to a news release issued on Monday.

That decisive Monday action got us power on Thursday.  Don't send me an outrageous energy bill applied retroactively either.  

I don't think there is a credit large enough for what we endured to stay alive, prevent damage to our wells and property and keep animals alive.  With a fireplace insert going around the clock the house got down to 41 degrees.  It stayed in the 40's much of the time our power was off.

I do thank the Lord for getting us through it.  He didn't abandon us but our leaders surely did.  San Angelo Mayor Brenda Gunter called it with her statement mid crisis:

"the bigger picture is that the state infrastructure utilities plan failed us all."

Rep. Darby will take on ERCOT, the group he's provided guidance for as an elected official.  Does that mean he's taking on himself?

Update 2-24-21:  Texas energy executives are ecstatic over their huge profits while citizens suffered mightily.

Update 2-25-21:  One Texas Representative went without power for 30 hours.

Update 3-21-21:  Neither the Texas Legislature nor the Texas Supreme Court chose to deal with Grid Failure.  Markets win, citizens lose.

A move in Texas to wipe out more than $4 billion in electricity overcharges from last month’s devastating blackouts appears dead in the water after deeply divided lawmakers left town without taking final action on the proposal.

Immunity from accountability wins, citizens lose. 

The all-Republican high court split 5 to 4, with the majority deciding that a legal technicality prevented it from weighing in on the Electric Reliability Council of Texas’s claim to governmental immunity in a case that predated the February disaster. As a result, a lower court ruling granting government immunity to Ercot stands for now.

Piss poor leaders gave Texans a system that not only failed millions but overcharged in a time of crisis.  That system remains firmly in place.

Update 3-29-21:  Former CEO Bill Magness testified to Congress that ERCOT had no choice but to order rolling outages to prevent long-lasting damage to electric infrastructure.  We got outages, no rolling.

Update 6-15-21:  ERCOT is again warning power customers to conserve.  Energy plants are down and power may be in short supply. 

Update 11-29-21:  Texas has done “next to nothing” to weatherize its natural gas supply which would result in major power outages should the state experience another long term freeze. 

Update 12-5-21:  Rep. Drew Darby's latest abandonment of the health and safety of his constituents involved his opposition to federal vaccine mandates.  Shannon Medical Center had to suspend its requirement for employees to be COVID-19 vaccinated as courts deal with the constitutionality of mandates.  Tom Green County's highest COVID death toll occurred just months ago.   Darby's House District shows education and health care as the biggest employer.  A Texas education official recommended COVID vaccines be mandatory in schools, like other required vaccinations.

Friday, February 12, 2021

McAllen Water Staff Looking for Tainted Water Source

Mayor Brenda Gunter and city staff gave a press event this afternoon on San Angelo's water crisis as  the community prepares for a Winter Storm and days of record cold.  Water Utilities Director Alison Strube said test results from the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality (TCEQ) had not come in, despite the samples being taken days ago.

Strube was asked a question about the source of the contamination.  She said it had not been identified but City of McAllen water staff have been visiting industrial water users in the PaulAnn area to determine the culprit.  

The State of Texas Department of Emergency Management reached out to McAllen for technical and professional assistance on San Angelo's behalf.  I wondered what distinctive competency McAllen had that our water staff did not.  

The City of San Angelo's woes arose from frequent staff turnover in the City Engineer position and the need to spend millions on outside engineering firms.  Add the City's decades of "we'll fix it when it breaks" maintenance mentality and one wonders what preventive surveillance our Water Department does to ensure industrial chemicals do not enter the potable water supply?

City Council should ask about McAllen's distinctive competency and ensure our Water Department has the same.  They should also ask why TCEQ took so long to get back test results that would help a community navigate out of a crisis?

Update 2-22-21:  The city has not released information on what the McAllen team found, i.e. how many industrial water users had failed back flow preventers and how long had it been since the City of San Angelo last inspected that business.

Update 2-25-21:  City Council will take up the water contamination issue in executive session in next week's meeting. 

Update 2-26-21:  City Manager Daniel Valenzuela updated citizens via video on the search for the toxic chemical source.